Supporters of former opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and Gambia’s exiled President Yahya Jammeh clashed on Tuesday night ahead of parliamentary polls.
The militants of the former ruling party, accused of human rights abuses, alleged that UDP supporters called members of the minority Jola ethnic group witches, sparking a brawl.
A handful of UDP supporters have been arrested by the police and currently being detained at the Tallinding Police Station in the Kanifing Municipality.
Police presence at the station has been reinforced as members of both parties assemble outside the station. No charges have been preferred against the detainees.
The UDP, which was the Gambia’s largest opposition party is one of the eight opposition groups that united to give Jammeh a shocking defeat in the December elections.
Tallinding is home to the Gambia’s parliament’s Majority Leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who will be not be seeking to maintain his seat.
UDP’s Fatoumata Jawara, who was arrested alongside political icon Solo Sandeng, and tortured by Gambian authorities is campaigning to become the National Assembly Member for the area.
A police officer said a group of UDP adults that were using profanity towards the ousted Gambian ruler urged children to join in, escalating tensions.
Gambian authorities suspended the prosecution of more than a dozen APRC supporters who were charged for insulting President Adama Barrow and throwing stones at his supporters in Foni.
Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty said it will help with the government’s reconciliation program, which is yet to be rolled out, after meeting with community leaders in Kansala.
Jammeh had threatened genocide against the Mandinka ethnic group, outraging Gambians and prompting the UN genocide adviser to warn him to withdraw his comments. Jammeh belongs to the Jola ethnic group, which dominates the Foni region that Jammeh won in the last elections.
Before he was forced to flee the country, Jammeh had accused supporters of the coalition of attacking his supporters, especially those belonging to his tribe. A report that authorities say was not true.
Tribal sentiments in Gambia is causing deep fractures within supporters of the coalition in the diaspora. Many on social media have condemned the use of tribal affiliation in politics.
The UN has given the Gambia US$3 million to help with peace building after the country nearly slipped into civil war over Jammeh’s refusal to cede power. It urged the government to set up a transitional justice program.
(Reporting and Writing by Lamin K. Saidy, Contribution and Editing by Sam Phatey)